Hoax calls warning as 161 lives saved by Coast Guard
THE Irish Coast Guard saved 161 lives during the past year – but had to deal with an "unacceptably high" level of hoax calls.
Responding to almost 2,000 incidents, it was the busiest year since the search and rescue service was formed in 1822.
Crews recovered a record 88 bodies during 2012.
The Coast Guard said there was an "unacceptably high" number of hoax calls – 325.
Transport Minister Leo Varadkar paid tribute to staff members and volunteers for their work.
"They had their busiest year ever and responded to incidents that saved 161 lives. That wouldn't have been possible without the 900 Coast Guard volunteers, so I really want to recognise that today and thank them for that," he said.
Mr Varadkar was speaking at Howth harbour in Dublin where he took a tour on an Irish Coast Guard rig and watched a rescue demonstration.
There are 2,000 volunteers in the RNLI, 300 community rescue boats and 500 mountain and cave rescue volunteers.
Mr Varadkar ruled out turning the services into a completely full-time operation as he praised the long history of volunteering.
"That's something we want to support. It's not something we're trying to undermine or professionalise. It does work. We just need to make sure they're properly supported."
Mr Varadkar said funding for the Irish Coast Guard, the RNLI and the mountain rescue services would be maintained or increased next year.